Anyway, anyone can figure out what sounds good to them in a salad, but actually making salad dressing is scary for a lot of people. I know, because I used to be that person. A good friend of mine from college and I once had this conversation, because she always had homemade dressing, but I never did, unless you count plain oil and vinegar, growing up. It just was not done in my house. No matter how easy something is–baking bread, making salad dressing, roasting a prime rib, making dal–when you have never done it before or seen it done, it can be overwhelming. And then you try it, and feel a little silly.
The other reason the dressing is key is that long after strawberries are in season you will still be turning to this dressing (and it keeps indefinitely in the fridge). I don’t use it much in summer, when I want the flavor of my greens to shine and therefore tend to use simply oil and vinegar or oil and lemon juice. But when the weather turns colder and the greens start coming from the grocery store, I turn again to this dressing. It is a marriage made in heaven with goat cheese or gorgonzola, any kind of nuts, and dried fruit. It is also superb with strawberries, as in this salad.
I do not list amounts for the ingredients because I have found that traditional dressing recipes are not to my taste at all. They have way too much oil and not enough sweetness and vinegar for me. Therefore I will not assume my exact dressing is to your taste either, but rather just tell you what I do–so make sure you read through the recipe first. For the record, in this salad I used candied pecans, goat cheese, bibb lettuce, frisee, sliced fresh strawberries and the balsamic vinaigrette. It was seasonal, refreshing and delicious.
balsamic vinegar (medium quality, nothing really fancy)
extra virgin olive oil (also nothing too fancy)
Begin by whisking together some Dijon mustard with a pinch of salt and honey–I suggest starting with about 2 tablespoons of the mustard and then guesstimating the honey based on how sweet you like dressings. Whisk in some balsamic vinegar, maybe one quarter cup. Taste it–if it still quite mustard-y, add more balsamic (and maybe more honey if needed). Keep fiddling until you get something that tastes good but way too strong. Slowly drizzling in the oil, whisk to emulsify (much easier than it sounds, this is nothing like whipping cream for example). Taste frequently–not only might you like your vinaigrette strong, like me, but there is no point in putting more oil in than you need, as that just increases the fat.
If you store in the fridge, let warm a little and shake before using. If you go a long while between uses, the oil may separate out and solidify–no big deal, just bring to room temperature and shake thoroughly.